Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

near the end of my (Apple) rope

I bought my first Apple product — the original Macintosh — almost exactly thirty years ago. I have never been as frustrated with Apple products as I am now. Not even close.

A great many of these issues involve communications among machines: on the Mac, Yosemite brought a host of wifi problems; on iOS, Bluetooth has been borked for millions of people since iOS 8 was introduced, especially if you have an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus. Apple wants us to replace iPhoto with its new Photos app, but I can’t get Photos to sync all the pictures that iPhoto handles … well, fairly well, anyway — which is all just part of the larger story, which is that iCloud is a complete disaster.

Marco Arment:

Your computer can’t see my computer on the network or vice versa? The only solution that works is to reboot everything, just like using Windows fifteen years ago. Before Yosemite, I never had these issues on Macs.

Yosemite is now 6 months old, these bugs still aren’t fixed, and it feels like they probably won’t be fixed anytime soon. Yosemite is probably in minimal-maintenance mode as primary resources have likely moved on to headlining features for 10.11. This is what’s so frustrating about today’s Apple: if a bug persists past the early beta stages of its introduction, it rarely ever gets fixed. They’re too busy working on the new to fix the old.

But of course the new will have bugs too. So the bugs keep piling up — not to mention the missing features: e.g., margins in TextEdit documents can’t be changed without some sketchy hacks, items in Reminders can be ordered by date only manually, Safari lacks favicons to help you distinguish tabs by sight, and so on. Then there are inexplicably frustrating software design decisions, like regular backwards-incompatible changes in file formats for some apps (Pages, Keynote). Moreover, interoperability between OS X and iOS seems to be getting worse with time, not better, despite features like Handoff which are supposed to address that very problem but may not work.

And the arrival of the Apple Watch is surely going to exacerbate all these problems, not only with Apple software but with third-party software that companies are trying to make work on three platforms now: OS X, iOS, and the special version of iOS that Watch runs. Mo’ devices, mo’ platforms, mo’ problems.

In light of all this, here’s my current plan:

First, I will stop even trying to get either Bluetooth or iCloud to work. Pretend they don’t exist, because effectively they don’t. Assume that the only backups I have are to an external hard drive. If I want to play music in my car, I’ll either listen to the radio or burn CDs like I did back in the day. (Remember when that was the coolest thing?) Well, if burning CDs still works in iTunes….

Second, move whenever possible to non-Apple software, especially, though not only, when Apple's stuff relies in some way on iCloud. (Hardest thing to replace, for a guy who doesn’t want to use Google or Microsoft products either: Keynote. Keynote is a great, if somewhat bloated app, but its ever-changing file format makes it a long-term loser.)

Third, if things aren’t any better by 2017 — when my iPhone 6 Plus will be old enough to trade in — switch to Linux, for my phone as well as my computer, assuming that the Ubuntu Phone is available in this country by then. Yes, Linux has plenty of problems; but I won’t be paying a premium price for a system that promises to “just work” but just doesn’t work. If I’m going to have to be in permanent fiddling/hacking mode, let me do it from within an operating system meant for fiddling and hacking.


  • N.B.: No comment along the lines of "X works just fine for me" — I don't care if X works for you, that's irrelevant to my situation — or "Have you tried Z" — yes, I have tried Z, no matter what Z is I have tried it — will be approved.

  • Why doesn't Apple make these fixes? I'm not a programmer so I don't understand the mechanics and time that go into them, but they send out bug fixes for other stuff; why not just fix them? I too feel a bit trapped with not loving Apple while also not wanting to feed the Google or Microsoft beasts, yet without experience with Linux I'd rather take my chances with the Apple stuff that mostly works fine.

    I suppose it's good to be platform-diverse and not locked into one ecosystem, especially one like Apple that can't be bothered to care about simple things its customers would both enjoy and benefit from.

  • I'm still agog that Apple just about forced the iOS 8 upgrade, with no recourse even through dastardly hacking means for reversing. I found this out only too late after updating my iPhone 4S, which worked great but now takes about five long Mississippis to load the keyboard. Only then did I realize the tacit contract is that Apple remotely bricks your device every 18 months to gently suggest you drop another $700 to get with the times.

    Then there's iTunes, a once-beautiful product, now bloated and bug-ridden (there are a few that've been around for years that I and others have begged the developers on the Apple Forums to fix, to no avail) and madness-inducing even for very basic functions like queueing up songs from another playlist without erasing the current queue. I've gone through a cycle of continually accepting the newest upgrades in hopes the bugs will have finally been addressed, only to find the latest release more twitchy than the last. Only the sunk costs of 12 years of play counts and carefully honed playlists are keeping me. I'll have to buckle eventually.

  • Blackberry Phone and plain old hp laptop. I love how outlook fully syncs to my phone. Also love the blackberry encryption for security. If you use your devices for mainly business (as I do) and not primarily entertainment or gaming, its hard to beat this combo.

  • Although I find ITunes incomprehensible, I've managed to load music from it on my iTouch --sans Bluetooth. However, I realize this falls under the 'No X" and "No Z" rule...On the other hand, colored index cards--yes.

  • Just curious: in your opinion, when (if ever) was Apple's "golden age"?

    I grew up on Apple computers, starting with the Mac Classic II. My favorite computer was probably my 2006 MacBook Pro. Everything since then has been progressively less impressive, and functionally less intuitive.

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